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Weddings and Dresses

I wrote this post a few weeks ago, but didn’t publish it right away, because . . . because, because I was mad at myself. In the end I wore an awful nylon skirt, with an awful nylon shirt that I got from Mom (it used to be hers), and looked pretty decent. The kids looked way cuter. But at least I wasn’t over- or under-dressed.

I don’t have fancy clothes anymore.

I mean, I do. But they’re not really fancy. I used to have suits (jacket and skirt, not pants), but I don’t wear suits anymore. I used to have jackets, but now they either a) don’t fit me, or b) just aren’t nice anymore. Plus, I don’t like wearing a lot of black.

Actually, most of my nice clothes fit me only for a few months after our wedding. And then little by little the selection got smaller. The only nice skirt I have today is this awful nylon skirt. And it isn’t even that nice, either.

Most of the time, I couldn’t care less. But when I have to dress fancy, like for a wedding, I really feel the lack.

And here’s the problem: I don’t have the time, patience, or money to go shopping.

I hate clothes shopping. Most of what I see, I won’t wear. What I might wear is either horrifically expensive, needs alterations, or both. And why would I want t spend a lot of money on something that I don’t like AND have to fix?

So, I don’t.

Well, we have a wedding on Monday night and I am the only one without anything semi-nice to wear. And worse, it’s a family we’re very close to. You could say it’s our “adopted” family.

Hopefully, it will be chilly and rainy on Monday and I will be able to wear a sweater. I *have* nice sweaters, and if I pair one with that awful nylon skirt, I’ll look fine.

But honestly, I was really stupid.

I knew this wedding was coming up. I should’ve looked online and ordered something for 50 shekels. Now, it’s too late.

But for the next wedding, I will find a nice dress online, with free shipping, and try it out. I’ll order early, so that I have time to return or exchange it if necessary. And I’ll order something that size isn’t an issue for. (Let’s just say I’m still carrying around baby weight from Tova. And I never lost all the weight from Shlomo, either – although I am still *much* skinnier than my mother, sister, and most other family members who have had kids.)

Maximum, I’ll need two: one for when I’m nursing, and one for when I’m not. (Wait, so that means I should have ordered one for nursing in. Because I’m still nursing Tova, and don’t see her weaning anytime soon.)

And I’ll just save the dress, or two, for when I need something fancy.

And that will be that.

Next time.

The Tooth Fairy, And Other “White” Lies

This post was written on September 20, 2015. Gee, whiz. Why am I publishing it here instead of charging money for it? Because I love you guys, that’s why.

Let’s put it this way: I don’t believe in lying to kids. Except in very rare instances, I think it does incredible harm.

Harm to your relationship with the kid.

Harm to your authority.

Harm to every stupid moral lesson you’ll ever try to teach your kid.

So I never quite understood why it’s okay to lie to your kids – about the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, or any other character.

Sure, I understand that there are “white lies,” but I never quite understood why they’re different from black lies, red lies, green lies, or purple lies.

When I was about six or seven, a friend told me that the Tooth Fairy is really our parents. My mother insisted – insisted, promised, whatever – that that wasn’t true. She denied that the Tooth Fairy was really her. And I just kind of looked at her, thinking to myself, “Do you think I’m stupid enough to believe you?”

But hey, I got money. So why not continue pretending?

Well, at some point, I felt like it was just too dumb. So when my last few teeth fell out (or rather, I pulled them out) at around the age of thirteen, I refused to play Tooth Fairy.

I mean, give me a break. This is garbage, and we both know it. My tooth can go in the trash, and you can stop insisting that fairies exist. Give. Me. A. Break.

But no. My mother really wanted those last baby teeth, and I get why. I’m her eldest, and they were my last baby teeth. It’s okay to be sentimental sometimes. As long as you admit to it, that is.

And she did. She came out and said, “I know you don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy, and I know you think I’m being stupid. But i really want to save those baby teeth.”

I told her I’d give them to her in her hand, if she wanted. Nothing doing. She wanted to take them from under my pillow. “Please?” she asked. “Just do me a favor. I’ll give you $5.”

Well, $5 is a pretty good sum for doing absolutely nothing except putting a tooth under your pillow, instead of throwing it out.

I did it. Of course I did. Wouldn’t you?

And that’s how it happened that I got $5 for each of my last few baby teeth.

Yitzchak’s parents took a different approach. Or rather, his Dad did. My dad kind of left Tooth Fairy to my mom.

Yitzchak’s dad, in many ways, was more involved than mine (and that’s saying something).

Yitzchak and his brothers gave their teeth straight to their father, who was “the Tooth Fairy’s agent.” He took the tooth and gave them the money. It wasn’t a lot – maybe $1.

There wasn’t any promise of communication with the Tooth Fairy – just a statement that the “agent’s” job was to exchange teeth for money. Apparently, the tooth fairy was very busy, and didn’t have time to take teeth from under every kid’s pillow.

The Tooth Fairy’s agent explained to them that teeth that are put under a pillow don’t always get found. Sometimes, they may even get swallowed. Yitzchak says that he tried putting his tooth under his pillow once – and found, in the morning, that his tooth was still there (or maybe, had fallen on the floor. It was a long time ago).

When the kids started to ask if the Tooth Fairy existed, Dad said something like, “No, she doesn’t really exist. But I’ll give you $1 for your tooth, anyways.”

And us?

Well, Tooth Fairy doesn’t live in Israel, as far as I know. Maybe she’s like Google, the EU, and the PA – and doesn’t want to acknowledge that Israel even exists.

Either way, I think we’ll skip this part. Maybe we’ll do what Yitzchak’s Dad did. But probably, if I want to save the teeth, I will just save them. And if they want to know why, I’ll tell them: It’s important to me to save your baby teeth. It may sound dumb, but sometimes parents like to do dumb things. And when you’re a parent, you will probably do dumb things, too.

Yitzchak thinks that maybe the local witch takes teeth and uses them for spellcasting. Does that mean that the Tooth Fairy is really a witch? Or that the Witch and the Fairy fight over every tooth?

I’ll leave you with that question, and you’ll let me know what you think.

I Think My Kid is “Color-Blind”

Today I took Shlomo to gan . . . late.

We waited a while for the bus, and while we were waiting, we spoke about:

  • the guy smoking at the bus stop (ewww);
  • calling the municipality to come give him a 1000 shekel fine;
  • the garbage on the sidewalk, near the trees, and by the bus stop; 80% was cigarette butts and we came to the conclusion that the entire area would be cleaner if people didn’t smoke;
  • the olive trees, the olives that fell on the floor, and the evergreen trees (and that they have different “leaves”);
  • the almost-empty intercity bus that we took to its last stop and had almost to ourselves;
  • the building that they’re painting grey-blue and red – we decided that it looked nice and fresh, but the colors weren’t nice and we would’ve rather them painted it yellow or peach;

and one more thing . . . the color of the people around us.

It started with Shlomo pointing out the the car was white with black wheels, and the lady passing us had “black legs”. Shlomo had “grey legs” and I had (still have, at the moment) “brown legs”. Then we passed someone with “blue legs”.

I asked Shlomo if these were the *real* colors of their (and our) skin, or just the colors of their clothes. Of course, Shlomo knew the right answer . . . it’s the color of their clothes.

He didn’t know what color our skin is, and honestly, I don’t know what to call our skin color, either. So when he gave me a silly grin (to show off his true skin color) instead of stating the “real” color, I simply said, “You’re right, your skin isn’t grey or brown or blue. It’s a different color, lighter, because that’s what your Abba (Dad) and I have.”

Then I asked him if there were people with brown skin. At first, Shlomo shook his head no. I reminded him of the little boy and girl that we’d met at the bus stop (all of them really hit it off).

I asked if the boy had brown skin. Shlomo said yes. I asked if his sister had brown skin; Shlomo said yes. I asked what color their Abba’s skin was; Shlomo said it was brown. Then I asked a thinking question: What color do you think their Ima’s (Mom’s) skin is? And he said . . . brown. I told him he’s a very smart boy.

And then I said, “Do you know why they have brown skin?”

“No . . .” [while he dance-walks].

“It’s because Hashem (G-d) made people look different from each other, so He made different people’s skin different colors. Their Abba and Ima have brown skin, so they do, too. Your Abba and Ima have lighter skin, so you do, too. What color hair do I have?”

He looked at me for a second. “Brown.”

“What color hair does Abba have?”

He thinks . . . “Brown.” (Wrong answer. But I get where he’s coming from.)

“Abba has yellowy hair, right?”

By this time we were at gan. He danced in, and happily waved me off.

I don’t know what the conversation actually gave him, or me. I don’t know why I brought it up, even. But at that moment, it felt like an important point to make . . . nobody’s legs are *really* the color of their clothes. And people have differently colored skin.

Yitzchak was surprised that I’d “taught” him about race.

Because, honestly, Shlomo doesn’t care about, or even notice, race (as I found out today). He just sees a kid his own age (and often his own gender), and thinks, “Yay! Playmate! Someone to run around with, chase, and make silly noises with! Someone to sit beside on the bus and share snacks with!”

He really doesn’t notice color. (Kristen Howerton, didn’t you say that *all* kids notice color, even preschoolers?)

But the thing is, he will. One day, the subject will come up. I don’t know how it will come up or with who, what the attitude will be, or what information he’ll receive.

So I figure, I may as well bring it up myself, and tell him what *I* think he needs to know.

And that way, when the subject *does* come up, it won’t be the first time he’s put thought into it and the first time he’s given it a name.

He’ll already *have* an opinion, and hopefully, that will protect him from the various stupid opinions (and information) that the world tends to give kids.

Yitzchak commented, “Wow, Chana, you’re so much less racist than you were when I married you.”

I said, “What’s there to be racist against black people? They’re nice. I’m only racist against Arab terrorists (which, for me, includes all Arabs until proven otherwise).”

He said, “I know, but you weren’t like that when we married.”

I said, “I guess it was the influence of living so many years in Toronto. All the blacks I’ve met here are nice.” [And in Toronto, they’re often painted as scary, uneducated, etc.]

So the bottom line is, I know kids are going to find (or figure) these things out. They’ll have questions, and if you don’t know something, you worry about it. And I want my kids, first of all, to already have an opinion on a given topic, and to know that it’s okay to talk with me, because I’ve brought that same topic up before.

.

.

P.S. – One of these days, I’m going to sit down with one of these “brown” mommies and ask her to detail her “tough love” strategy to me. Because I see those kids, and they *listen* to their parents, respect their parents, and mostly turn out to be honest, hardworking, teens with a good work ethic. And hey, *I want that too.*

 

 

 

 

 

Wow!! What a Great Judge!!

In a stunning and unusual move, a judge strips the mother of custody and transfers the children to the father. The mother is not allowed to be there at the moment of transfer, and is ordered to send all her children’s clothes and belongings to the children’s father.

And why?

Because, “the woman spent more than a decade trying to alienate them from their father.”

The mother’s “consistent and overwhelming” campaign to brainwash the children into thinking their father was a bad person was nothing short of emotional abuse, Justice Faye McWatt of the Superior Court of Justice wrote in her decision.

. . . McWatt stipulated that K.D. is to have no access to the children except in conjunction with counseling, including a special intensive therapy program for children affected by “parental alienation syndrome.” The mother must bear the costs.

Way to go, Judge!! May there be many more like you, and may this start becoming reality: Parents who emotionally abuse their children and brainwash them into alienating the other parent – lose custody.

I. Am. Impressed.

Wow.

Wow.

WOW!!!!

WHAT A GREAT JUDGE!!!

Do you guys know how common it is for a divorced, custodial parent to badmouth the other parent and brainwash the children that the non-custodial parent is evil?

Do you know how often such custodial parents are also emotionally abusive to their children in other ways?

Do you know how often children of divorced parents are turned into prizes? The custodial parent is *obviously* the innocent party, and the non-custodial parent is *obviously* the guilty party – because otherwise, the court would have decided differently.

Do you know how often children of divorced parents are used as tools, as weapons, with which to hurt the other parent?

I am SO glad that a judge has finally put a stop to this. I am SO glad that there is now a precedent for parents who spew evil about their ex-spouse to be told, “Get a life and stop poisoning your kids.”

If the child did not perceive the alienated parent as a threat, they may decide that their perception is wrong. This can cause long term damage; in addition, “the child can even begin inventing his or her own reasons for hating the other parent.”

And even if the divorce happened years ago and the children are settled, there is still hope: In this case, the judge ruled to transfer custody to the father after the mother had spent *ten years* brainwashing her kids to hate him. Often, parents in this situation simply “move on with their lives.” Kudos to this dad for not giving in.

No Time For Phone Calls

It’s not new.

For the past year or so – maybe even two years, I’ve hardly called anyone on the phone. Those who want to talk to me – call me.

I have a friend who calls me when she’s on the bus home. We always get cut off twice, when she goes through the tunnels. Often, she calls at the darndest times. But she is just too hard to hang up on. We usually talk her entire bus ride, until she arrives home and has to get off the phone. (She doesn’t *have* to hang up. But she and her husband have this *thing*. They only talk on the phone when the other isn’t around. One day, when I grow up, I will adopt that policy. I kind of wish we’d done that immediately after our wedding. It’s tougher now.)

Yitzchak’s mother, my grandmother, and countless others – all of them call us. Because the day goes like this:

Get up.

Get ready to go.

Leave the house.

Walk to gan.

[Go to work and/or

go shopping. And/or

nurse.

Come home.]

Walk in the door.

Help baby take a nap.

Phew! Finally some time to myself, to get things done. Now I need to:

Clean up the house.

Do some laundry.

Maybe eat.

Maybe use the bathroom.

Relax.

Oops! Baby woke up.

Nurse.

Play with baby (because you can’t do anything *else* with a kvetchy baby hanging off you).

Go downstairs.

Put baby in stroller.

Go get big boy.

Come home with big boy.

De-sand big boy.

Feed big boy, and maybe baby, too.

Use the bathroom.

Try to relax.

Try to keep things under control while

preparing supper

and waiting for Yitzchak to come home.

Yitzchak gets home.

We eat.

We talk.

Then it’s bedtime. Ideally,

one of us gets big boy to bed,

and the other one gets baby to bed. Sometimes,

one of us holds baby,

while the other gets big boy to bed,

and then takes screaming baby,

who wanted the same parent as big boy,

and gets screaming baby to bed.

Finally! Kids are sleeping in bed, and we can calm down.

And *then* Yitzchak and I talk.

And then we work –

on the house

on the computer

on whatever else.

When will I talk on the phone?

During the morning, when I’m running around?

During the afternoon, when I have both kids?

During bedtime?

After bedtime, when I’m trying to get myself back together, get some work done, and talk to Yitzchak?

I just don’t have time, and more than that, I don’t have the emotional energy.

Texts, I can do. Emails, I can also do.

But a phone call requires commitment. To quiet; to not doing anything else; to ten or twenty minutes of quiet; to being available non-stop for the entire time; to being able to speak into a phone, preferably the house phone, for the entire time.

With texts, you can start typing, separate big kid from little kid, and go back to typing. You can press “send” while saying, “You need to *try* to poop, even if you don’t think you have to.” Emails are even easier. No one expects you to answer an email within twenty minutes. Instead, they expect their answer anywhere between within a few hours to within a few days.

But if I shout, “Excuse me! We don’t run while we’re eating, it’s dangerous!” too many times while I’m on the phone, chances are pretty good that the person I’m talking to will be annoyed. Unless, of course, it’s either Yitzchak’s mother, or the person I’m speaking to is also refereeing while on the phone.

I’ve tried to make phone calls. I’ve tried calling two people a week. I’ve tried calling during naptime. I actually used to make my phone calls during Tova’s naptime. But that was when she napped every three hours or so. Today, she has a morning nap, and an afternoon nap. And it’s a lucky day that they both fall out during times when she can actually sleep in her bed until she’s ready to wake up. So with two naps a day, I need to be pickier about what I use the time for.

This morning, I planned her nap around the two hours that I needed to teach. This afternoon, I’m using her nap to write a blog post.

The only person I *do* call on a regular basis is Yitzchak. Surprised? Don’t be. Here’s what our conversations often sound like:

Me: Hi Yitzchak.

Him: Hi, Chana.

Me: What’s up?

Him: I’m working.

Me: Where?

Him: In X.

Me: Ah. How’s it going?

Him: Okay.

Me: Okay I just wanted to check and make sure you were okay. By the way did you get my texts?

Him: Yes. And I have to go.

Me: Okay talk to you later.

Total time: 4 minutes.

.

Or how about this:

Yitzchak: Hi Chana.

Me: Do you know where the teething gel is?

Him: I think it’s on the bookshelf.

Me: If it was on the bookshelf, I wouldn’t be asking. [baby screaming in the background] Any other ideas?

Him: No. Did you check the dresser?

Me: Yes, but I’ll check again.

[more screaming]

Me: Okay, listen, she won’t let me put her down and I can’t search with one hand. I’ll talk to you later, k?

Him: Okay.

Total time: 4.5 minutes.

.

Sounds terrific, right? Here’s one last example.

Me: Where’s the peanut butter?

Him: On the counter. I just wanted to tell you I made the bus.

Me: I saw that, you texted it. I gotta run or else *we* won’t make the bus. Do we have bread?

Him: Yes, we do. I think it’s still in the bag, on the floor.

Me: It is, thanks.

Him: Is Shlomo behaving?

Me: I don’t know what you mean by behaving. . . he’s okay, I guess. Where are you?

Him: At the Central Bus Station. Okay, I have to get off. I love you, okay? I have to go.

Me: Okay. Stay safe.

Total time: 3 minutes.

.

Who else can I call, if I can only barely spare 4 minutes to talk? No one.

Sometimes I *make* Yitzchak get off the phone, because I need him to be alert. It’s just not safe to talk on a cell phone in the street. You need eyes, ears, and the eyes in the back of your head to be open, alert, and aware of your surroundings. I’m pretty sure Yitzchak thinks I’m being paranoid, or maybe even controlling. But he can’t argue with my logic . . . so he listens.

If you wanted to speak to me, call me up.

I will call you one day, too. When I have babies who take frequent naps, and big kids in school. Or maybe when I have big kids in school, and bigger kids at work or at home with their own kids. On the other hand, when I have grandkids, I’ll probably still be busy . . . or busy again, perhaps . . . helping my kids take care of them. Right?

So perhaps I should say, “I’ll call you when I’m too old to be running after kids?”

Somehow, that doesn’t sound like it’ll work. But it does have a nice ring to it.

There are many people I want to keep in touch with. If I’m not calling, take heart. It’s me – or rather, my kids. It’s not you.

And I wish Yitzchak and myself many more years of running after kids and trying to work while the baby naps.

Nana

Over a decade ago, my great-aunt and her husband (who technically speaking, could be my parents, but not my grandparents) became grandparents to a very cute baby girl.

Not feeling old, they looked for a young nickname for themselves instead of the regular “Grandma” and “Grandpa”. What they came up with was only semi-unique: Nana and Papu. (Can you guess which one is which?)

When I moved to Israel, it became obvious to me that my kids would also call them Nana and Papu, and not Aunt and Uncle, like I’d always called them. (However, we haven’t really been in touch regularly enough to actually warrant that.)

Nine years after my aunt and uncle chose their names, I gave birth to Shlomo – the first grandchild on either side (he was also the *only* grandchild, until Tova came along and changed that). Both my parents and Yitzchak’s had to choose grand-names for themselves.

Yitzchak’s parents chose Bubby and Zeidy (the Yiddish terms); my father chose Saba (the Hebrew term; it’s not a problem because every Saba we have in Israel is Saba Firstname). My mother didn’t want any of those names, but DID like my aunt’s name – and so she named herself Nana. My grandmother, who has always been Savta (Hebrew for grandmother) to me, has stayed Savta. Shlomo has other Savtas, but they are all Savta Firstname.

Honestly, it was weird for me. I’m not comfortable calling my mother Nana; maybe it’s because I don’t think of her as a grandmother, and maybe it’s because Nana was always my aunt. I think that’s it – I remember thinking to myself, “Um, Nana is Aunt, how am I going to un-mix them up? Maybe I just won’t call you Nana.” But I thought that so long ago, and only once – so I forgot about it, until now. And really, because of the distance, we hardly ever see our parents, anyways.

During Sukkot, we went to visit some cousins in Jerusalem. While we were there, we debated whether or not to join the cousins’ family gathering, and decided to go for it. This was a gathering of the children of my Aunt and Uncle; in other words, Nana, Papu, and their descendants. I told Shlomo that we were going to see all the cousins, and Nana and Papu. He thought that was great, and got very excited to see everyone, especially the people with the funny names (and especially Papu, whose name is funniest).

But as soon as the words were out of my mouth, and Shlomo had repeated “cousins,” “Nana,” and “Papu,” I knew I’d slipped up. Oops. Too late. But maybe . . . it doesn’t matter? Maybe . . . I should just take a deep breath and let it go . . . it actually kind of feels good to let that go; it feels right to have called them Nana and Papu. I didn’t mess up; I did what was natural and right. But . . . what am I going to do about my mother?

It had been so automatic and easy for me, and I hadn’t even realized that it was this natural for me to call them Nana and Papu. I haven’t called them that in years – and certainly not with my own kids. What was I going to tell my mother? Maybe I shouldn’t tell my mother – it’s not like it matters that much anyways.

I did tell my aunt later that day, and she didn’t understand what was so interesting. “Of course, yes, that’s what he should be calling us,” she told me. I guess she forgot that my mother copycatted her name . . . and that by Shlomo calling my aunt Nana, my mother has been simply, easily, painlessly . . . replaced.

Or not replaced, but in Shlomo’s mind, this person that he’s going to meet sometime soon (we didn’t end up going, because we just didn’t make it, for technical reasons) is Nana . . . I don’t know if he’ll realize that it’s a different voice, but if he doesn’t, he’ll assume that this is the Nana he’s spoken to on the phone.

It’s interesting how simple and painless that was . . . and odd how natural it was for me to call my aunt Nana.

But maybe it’s for the better . . . Shlomo needs present grandparents, just like every kid. If Yitzchak and I can rebuild our relationship with my aunt and uncle, then Shlomo might just have those grandparents . . . who are actually related to him, and not just “adopted” grandparents.

So now the question is this: Does my mother find herself a new name, considering that Shlomo is the only grandchild she has who is old enough, as of now, to call her by a name (nope, Tova isn’t talking yet) – and the transition will be simple and without confusion?

Or do I just rely on the fact that Shlomo is barely in contact with my mother, and find her a name for those times when he does happen to be around her? Maybe Nana Lastname? Nana Firstname? Or Mrs. Lastname? or Mama’s Mother? Grandmother? Or maybe I should explain that Aunt is Nana, but this person is a Different Nana?

I guess, as of right now, it doesn’t much matter. He hasn’t seen either Nana in years. When he sees Nana and Papu, I’ll think about it again. When we visit my mother and siblings – and I have no idea when that will be – we’ll decide what to do. My mother (I emailed her about it a few days ago) doesn’t seem to care; my aunt is slightly flattered, and mostly relieved. So, why waste energy worrying about which Nana keeps the name and which Nana changes her name?

I guess the lesson is, don’t be a copycat; it’s not nice and will always come back to bite you. Use your own brains – if you have them – and be original.

Copying on tests hurts you.

Copying in business doesn’t get you anywhere, and often ends up being your downfall.

Don’t copy names, either. When you do it in paper, it’s called plagiarism. When you do it with people, it’s confusing and just not nice.

Scissors

I’m sitting in the living room, reading. Yitzchak went to shul.

They’re in the kitchen, playing. Shlomo is laughing, and Tova is making happy sounds. Suddenly, Shlomo comes running out, laughing, and saying, “Mama, it’s funny! Look, it’s funny!”

“What’s funny? And why are you holding scissors?” I ask, standing up. I take the scissors away.

Shlomo points excitedly. “I’m cutting her hair!! Look, it’s funny!”

*      *      *      *      *      *

This morning, Shlomo took a bendy straw, part of a toy vaccum cleaner, and put the ends together, clipping Tova’s hair between them. “Look, I’m cutting her hair. Tova, don’t move, I’m cutting your hair.”

“Now your hair is cut. Right Mama, it’s funny?”

“Yes, it’s funny. But you know, Shlomo, we’re not cutting her hair any time soon. Right?” We go over a short list of girls from his gan. Only one of them has short hair. He realizes that my hair is also long; I explain to him that girls like to keep their hair long, so we’re going to let Tova’s hair grow.

I guess I didn’t realize how serious Shlomo was about the haircut thing.

*      *      *      *      *      *

I’m six years old, and Esther is four. I don’t know where my mother is. Probably either sleeping, or otherwise preoccupied. We’re bored. Very bored.

We start playing hairdresser in our room. We put give each other interesting hairdos for five minutes, and then we’re bored again.

Esther says, “I want to play real hairdresser.”

“What’s real hairdresser?”

“When you cut people’s hair.”

“That’s a good idea, I’m first and I’ll cut your hair, and then you’ll cut mine.” She didn’t like that, but she agreed.

In the middle of Esther’s haircut, my mother came in.

She got mad, screamed at us, and blamed me (obviously).

Lesson: Next time, let Esther go first so that she’ll get blamed. And next time, make sure that Mom doesn’t discover you. Because whatever game you’re playing, it’s bound to be wrong.

*      *      *      *      *      *

I’m thirteen years old, and Shira, the baby sister, is three. I’m babysitting her, Esther, and Noach.

Shira is sitting on my lap, complaining that her bangs are in her eyes. I pin them up, but her hair is so fine that they fall back down immediately. Sigh. They really are too long – they’re in her eyes already. Poor thing.

I give her a headband, but she pulls it off. “It doesn’t feel good,” she tells me. Sigh.

I pray that I won’t be screamed at. My mother isn’t answering her phone, or maybe I’m scared of interrupting her. I take some scissors and give her a bangs cut. It’s uneven, so I even it out. I realize that I should have done it differently, but oh well. No harm done. Her bangs end up being slightly too short, but they are even, and they look decent.

Shira is happy. I wish they’d ended up longer. They’ll grow back. It’s even; no one will make fun of her. It’s just a touch short – but hey, at least her bangs won’t be in her eyes for a long time, right?

My mother comes back. She sees Shira and screams at me. She makes me feel like a piece of irresponsible garbage, which I’m convinced I am. She comforts herself that she had Shira’s picture taken a few weeks ago, when she still looked “normal,” before her irresponsible !@#$# of a daughter decided to cut her baby’s bangs by herself.

*      *      *      *      *      *

I look at Shlomo and sigh. I can’t blame him for doing something that I did as a kid. It really is a normal kid thing. I am not, I am not, going to react the same way my mother did. I am not. What Shlomo did is not dangerous or hurtful. It is just annoying.

I take a deep breath and say calmly, “Oish, you cut her hair? Do you remember we said that we’re not cutting her hair? You’re not allowed to cut anyone’s hair without asking their Mama. It’s not okay.”

He looks at me.

“Where did you cut?”

He points to the crown of her head. I see a few short wisps of hair on the floor, and pick them up. There’s another wisp hanging off her head; I take that, too, put it in the sink, and reach for the broom.

I’m kind of sad. Her hair is really pretty, and it’s growing nicely. I didn’t want it to be cut for a while.

I tell myself that Shlomo had just started, and he’d hardly cut anything. That what he did cut was very short, and only a few strands at a time. I remind myself hat her hair is baby hair, and it hardly shows; that hair grows back. That this is normal; that this is exactly the kind of problems I prayed for – not far-reaching, not bank-account-killing, not a health problem, not long term, not serious.

I make sure Shlomo knows that it’s not okay to cut hair without asking permission first. Then I tell him that when I was a little girl, I cut my sister’s hair. He looks at me, unbelieving and confused; he doesn’t know why I’m telling him this.

When we’re back in the living room, I drill him on the rules: no cutting his hair or peyot, no cutting her hair. Other children aren’t allowed to cut your hair or Tova’s hair, and you’re not allowed to cut theirs. Tova isn’t allowed to cut your hair or hers, and you’re not allowed to cut her hair or yours.

He doesn’t like that he’s not allowed to cut his own hair. It’s his hair, after all; why shouldn’t he be allowed to decide whether or not to cut it? “But I like!”

I realize that, but we just don’t do it. “When you get bigger,” I tell him, “if you have brothers, maybe maybe maybe, you can cut their hair instead of me. Maybe. But not for sure, and not until I tell you that you’re allowed.”

I tell him that when I was a little girl I cut my sister’s hair. I ask him if my mommy was happy or sad. He thinks she was happy. I tell him that she was sad and angry. I ask him what he thinks my mommy did. He doesn’t know. I tell him that she screamed at me and punished me. I ask him if I screamed at him. He looks at me and smiles, “Noooo.”

“But are you going to do it again?”

“Noooo . . . ”

Let’s hope that’s true.

And let’s hope that these are the only types of problems we ever have to deal with.

Enough With the Awful Weather!

I blinked.

I opened my eyes.

Suddenly, it’s September.

The awful weather we had in June turned milder, but still hot, in July.

We’ve had three heat waves, where the weather reached 40 degrees in some places. I feel like our average was 38, throughout the summer. (But I may be wrong.) One of those heat waves lasted a week. A WEEK.

Now there’s a dust storm, and I can’t even open the windows. I hate not being able to open the windows. It cuts out light and air. Even hot air is air. But to have no air, except what’s already in here? Ugh.

It’s a dust storm and a fourth heat wave. It started on Tuesday morning, and hasn’t let up yet. With the windows closed, there is still light, but much less. They’re thick, and translucent, instead of transparent.

How am I supposed to get work done when I can’t see the sun and sky, when there’s no breeze? I don’t have a choice. I have to work, even if I can’t work as well as usual.

Sheesh. I’ve spent the whole summer waiting for nicer weather. And now, the summer’s over – over – the school year has started, and there is no nice weather in sight.

Sunday night is Rosh Hashana. On Monday, we’re eating with friends who live fifteen minutes away from the shul. If this doesn’t let up, we may have to cancel – Tova can’t go out in this, and even though Shlomo has been going to gan, it’s not good for him to breathe this polluted Syrian-Iraqi dust, either.

In gan, they have an air conditioner, and he takes the bus. Yesterday, it looked like the dust was clearing, and the ganenet let the kids play in the yard. I think that was a mistake, and hope they weren’t allowed out, today.

In the meantime, this apartment is getting more and more stuffy and humid. I have a layer of grease over my entire body, and pimples that make me look sixteen. It’s gross. I want to open the windows, and I want an air conditioner. I want sun and I want air, and I want my laundry to dry in five hours instead of 30.

But as of last night, 600 people had been hospitalized for inhaling this polluted dust, and I just can’t take the chance. The health ministry has warned that the elderly, babies, young children, and pregnant women, shouldn’t be exposed to this stuff – and neither should anyone with asthma or pulmonary heart issues. They’ve warned everyone to stay inside and not to strenuous physical activity.

Yitzchak isn’t doing a good job of listening to that instruction, but he’s an adult, and he has things to do – he can’t stay home all day. I feel like we should be splitting the outings between us, but the fact is, it doesn’t make sense for him to come home and then for me to leave and make a separate trip. It’s easier for him to just run the errands that are on the way to wherever he’s going.

This dust is choking. It makes you cough and it makes your eyes burn. I don’t know if we were smart or stupid to send Shlomo to gan. But I do know that Tova has no business breathing in any of this stuff, and even though she’s going stir crazy wanting to get out of the house, we just can’t risk it.

I hope this polluted sandbox weather clears up soon. I’m not sure how much longer I can stay inside with the doors closed. Thankfully, it’s not winter. If we had gas or a heater on, there would be a serious carbon monoxide risk. Sheesh, even in the winter I air out the nearly every day. Sure, it takes more time for it to warm up again. But I can’t stand having no fresh air.

Dust, you’ve got twelve hours to get out of here. If you’re intent on causing harm, go to Iran. They need you a LOT more.

Social Media and Me

Since social media first came out, I’ve hated it.

I don’t have Facebook, and never missed it.

I don’t have Twitter, because I think it’s dumb.

I don’t have Pinterest, because honestly, I don’t see the point.

I don’t have WhatsApp, and I never quite understood why everyone else does.  (Admission: Until a few months ago, I thought its name was WhatsUp.  I still call it WhatsDown, though.)

And why would I want to stick a name tag and personal pictures onto my Gmail account?  I don’t.

I do have LinkedIn.  I don’t know how much it’s helped me, if at all, but I signed up because I figured it would help me network and find a job.  It hasn’t, at least not yet.  But since so many experts think that LinkedIn is useful, I keep hoping that it will find me something.

Even though I’ve been active on online forums for over ten years, somewhere inside, I’m still a teenager, scared of stalkers who take their stalking offline.

I don’t post pictures of my kids – or myself, or my husband – on the net.  Recently, I shut down my Geni account, and changed all our names to anonymous or blanks.  I have no idea what my extended family thinks of that move – and honestly, I don’t really care.

I do what I do – and don’t do what I don’t do – after a lot of thought and consideration, and I really don’t care whether my decisions are applauded or booed.

Honestly, when people ask me about social media, most of them raise an eyebrow at the fact that I am completely disconnected.  In many ways, I feel like my technological skills are ten years behind.  I feel like a Bubby.

Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  To this day, I don’t know.

But, Yitzchak is on the same page.  He also is completely off all social media.

Lately, though, I’ve had to make some tough choices.  As you probably know, I’m not continuing at my teaching job this year.  That means that when the school year starts in less than a week, I will be at home.  Shlomo will go to gan, at least the first day (he doesn’t want to go back, but I told him he needs to try one day, and then decide).  And I will be home, with Tova.  We don’t do daycare.   Not if there is another viable option . . . even if that option requires a sacrifice of money, convenience, or career.

I’m happy about that.  It really is what I want to do, deep down.  I’m just worried about whether or not I’ll want to find another teaching job in a year from now, and how that would go, if I chose to take that route.

But what not teaching also means is that I need to replace my salary.  Ideally, Yitzchak would be earning on his own what the two of us earn together.  That may or may not happen, and it may or may not happen in the next few months.  Really, we just have to work hard and pray.  In the meantime, though, I still need a salary.

I know that if this freelance business thing succeeds, I won’t have to go back to teaching.  The question is more if I’ll want to. Honestly? I’m scared that Tova will be ready for gan next year, and, being a good parent, I’ll send her just because she’s ready, even though technically speaking, there’s no reason to spend the money.  Then I’ll be stuck at home by myself, running my own business and making eleven thousand shekels a month (okay, hopefully), but in desperate need of company.

Last time I stayed home, I was creating and editing educational materials.  It was great, except that my boss’ budget wasn’t big enough that he could promise me steady work.  Luckily, it was enough at the time, and we managed.  Now, though, I’m not up for that level of uncertainty.  I will still be working with him, but I need other clients, as well.

Freelancing, whether teaching, writing, or editing, is a tough field to find jobs in.  So, when I saw on one site, “If you can’t find your ideal job, create it,” it really clicked with me.

After a long bout of cold feet, nail biting, nervousness, and thinking “Oh my G-d, I can’t believe I’m doing this.  Is this me?  Am I NUTS?” I took the plunge.

I am now a freelance writer.  In six days, it will be official (because my teaching contract will be up).  I am going to make this work, and I am going to be one of those high-earning success stories, having to turn down clients because my business has been more successful than I’d thought possible, and I want to leave more time for my family.

What all this means, though, is that my attitude towards social media will have to change.  To build an online writing business, you need to network and reach people online.  You need to be easily searchable, both in Google and in social media, because otherwise, clients the world over will have a hard time finding you. Even if they do manage to find your site, they’ll be nervous about being one of the first to work with you, or about hiring an unknown writer, when there are more well-known, personable writers to be found.

I think it was Sophie Lizard who wrote that, “People don’t work with websites, they work with other people.” Or something along those lines.  So, you have to show that you’re a person.

And so, with a lot of tummy flip-flops, and a lot of nervousness, I came face-to-face with the social media monster that I’ve successfully managed to avoid since its inception.

I took the ghost Facebook account, faceless, nameless, postless, pictureless, that I had made for the sole purpose of being able to read Facebook links, and I put a picture and a website.

I made Twitter and Pinterest accounts, added a picture, name, website, byline, and found people to follow.

And when my first guest post came out the day after I sent it in, I shared it.  So far, it has gained me a single Twitter follower, and four LinkedIn “likes”.

I think what my compromise will have to be, is that I post and share my writing when it comes out.  Soon, I will make a logo; after that, I will probably get someone to draw a caricature of me, and use the caricature on all my social media accounts, instead of an actual picture.

This is actually why I haven’t been posting too much in the past week.  Instead, I’ve been pouring my time and energy into getting my freelance writing business off the ground.  It isn’t easy, but I’m on a roll, and I believe that with enough motivation and hard work, I can land a couple of high-paying clients within the month – enough to easily replace the income I was earning as a teacher.

I’ve also been trying to teach myself to put only one space between sentences, instead of two.  What this usually means is doing “Find and Replace,” when I’m done writing an article.  Most of the time, this does the trick.

Wish me luck, because I think I’ll need it.

And don’t worry.  I’m not leaving this blog.  I will still continue posting here, on a schedule as regular – or irregular – as I have been until now.

When my site is up, and I feel like I can be proud of it, I will place a link over here.  Until then, sit tight, and keep reading. 🙂

UPDATE: I wrote this post a few days ago, on August 26.  I don’t know that I’m super-proud of my site yet, but I have 2 pieces published and two more scheduled . . . so I’m taking the plunge and waving my  anonymity bye-bye.  You can visit my writer’s site here, and of course, if anyone you know (maybe even you) is looking for a quality freelancer, I’d love it if you recommended me.

The Cricket

cricket, house cricket, bug, insect, pet bug, pet cricketI’m not sure when he joined us, but for the past week at least, we have had a cricket living somewhere in our house.  Since he was practically invisible, and I happen to like cricket noise, I told Yitzchak that we should let him stay.  After all, he is harmless, isn’t he?

Cricket stayed.  When Shlomo sat on the toilet last Thursday night (at 10pm, if you were wondering, but he asked to make a poop, so we kept our mouths shut), he asked what the noise was.  I told him it was a cricket, and then he went to look for it – to bang the wall and tell him to go out.  I explained that the cricket was nice, and we could let him stay.  And so, Shlomo decided that the cricket was nice and could stay.  After that, every time he heard the cricket, he got excited.

Well, this morning I saw a bug on the floor in Shlomo’s room.  I didn’t know what it was, but it was a huge black bug.  Not having Yitzchak beside me, I stepped on it, despite my misgivings and worries that it might be Cricket.  After I smushed it, I felt bad – almost certainly, this was Cricket, but by then it was too late.  Here I note that even though I love cricket noises, I had never actually seen a cricket in real life, and I had always imagined them to be green.  I have a brother-in-law who is a entomologist; bugs are not my thing, though, and I was never interested in looking at them.

When Shlomo’s bedtime rolled around tonight, I mentioned to Yitzchak that there was a smushed bug in Shlomo’s room.  Yitzchak went to check, and indeed, the smushed bug of this morning was Cricket.

I felt bad, and Shlomo was sad.  He wanted to see Cricket.  He saw him, and said, “Remember when I hit the wall?  He’s not moving.”  He wanted to hit Yitzchak, because he thought it was Yizchak’s fault.  When I came to tuck him him, he asked me over and over why I smushed Cricket.  I said I had made a mistake and thought Cricket was someone else. We were both sad together.

And now he wants another cricket.  Hopefully, we will be able to find one.  I’m not sure, though, how far we are actually willing to go in order to find a replacement.  Mostly, I asked if he wanted to find another one just to make him feel better.  But I never actually promised we would actively search.

I can’t believe I actually suggested my son adopt a pet bug.  For that matter, I can’t believe we are all mourning a cricket.  He wasn’t a pet or anything . . . he just happened to be in our house for a few weeks.

But maybe he was a pet, because we came to really like him.

One thing is sure: The lesson that Shlomo learned from being nice to Cricket, and from seeing that he was a victim of a smushing mix-up, is probably worth having another cricket in the house.

I think my animal-mercy has gone a bit far, though.  I had mercy on the pigeons and let them stay outside our laundry room window.  Now, in return, I find feathers on the floor of the laundry room and bathroom . . . every single day.  Gross.  And they sometimes manage to hang on to clothing and are transferred to other rooms.  I think we either need to invest in a screen for that window, or I need to work on encouraging the pigeons to find another home.  How to encourage them to find another home, without encouraging Shlomo to yell, bang, and scare birds, is going to be a challenge, though.  And it is this challenge – of teaching him empathy towards other living things – that caused me to have mercy on the pigeons in the first place.

In the meantime, crickets are harmless.  If another one comes to live in our laundry room, we will happily welcome him.